On my coast to coast bicycle ride this summer, from San Francisco to Savannah, Georgia, I pedaled 3,300 miles across this amazing continent for the 7th time. I witnessed astonishing sights from sea to shining sea! Fisherman's Wharf and crashing waves along the Pacific Coast to Yosemite's magic! I cranked the pedals up 10,000 foot Tioga Pass in the high Sierra. I sat to eat lunch at incomparable Tenaya Lake while watching a mama bear and her two cubs scamper across the lingering snow fields. My friends and I descended into the utter desolation of Death Valley at 110 degrees heat. From there, we climbed to Las Vegas and on to the Grand Canyon. Still further, the road led into the Painted Desert and on through the Petrified Forest.
Route 66 carried me along some amazing memories of the '57 Chevy I once owned and .24 cent a gallon gasoline. Several of the gas stations featured signed pictures of Marilyn Monroe, the Beatles, Cary Grant, John Wayne, Jane Russell and Jimmy Stuart. Even Strother Martin cocked his eye in one poster! Loved that great character actor! Look at Roy Rogers, Gabby Hayes and Dale Evans! How can anyone forget Clint Eastwood in the "Good, Bad and Ugly"? Steve McQueen and Marlon Brando! Judy Garland, Kathryn Hepburn, Jane Mansfield and Mae West! Lauren Bacall and Bogart! Mickey Rooney and Barney Fife! Babe Ruth! Remember those old Corvettes and Route 66? I have a shot of my bicycle and me in front of a '55 red Corvette with a Route 66 sign!
What a great adventure for a man knockin' on the door of 64! Anyone my age knows that America no longer represents what it once enjoyed. And, countless Americans that read my columns despair that we may never see our "traditional' America again. We face an overpopulated, polyglot future, and you know something, we brought it upon ourselves with our apathy.
Nevertheless, I pedaled into New Mexico's enchanting mountains, across the plains of Texas, and through the trees and heat of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. I enjoyed some VERY unique moments on my bicycle. Life provides all of us with great adventure opportunities.
"Bicycle adventure: if the roar of a wave crashes beyond your campsite, you might call that adventure. When coyotes howl outside your tent--that may be adventure. When the wind rips at your tent pegs--that too, may be called adventure. While you're sweating like a horse in a climb over a 12,000 foot pass, that's adventure. When a howling headwind presses your lips against your teeth, you're facing a mighty adventure. If you're drenched from head to toe in sweat as you pedal across a desert, that's adventure. If you're pressing through a howling rainstorm, you're soaked in adventure. But that's not what makes an adventure. It's your willingness to struggle through it, to present yourself at the doorstep of Nature. That creates the experience. No more greater joy can come from life than to live inside the "moment" of an adventure. It may be a momentary "high', a stranger that changes your life, an animal that delights you or frightens you, a struggle where you triumphed, or even failed, yet you braved the challenge. Those moments present you uncommon experiences that give your life eternal expectation. That's adventure!" Frosty Wooldridge, on the road
But one thing really bothered me during my grand journey across America: within 150 years, we've turned this once pristine continent with all its inherent beauty, wildlife and treasures--into a giant garbage dump. At 15 miles per hour, a person really "sees' what happened to this country. Black, brown, red and white Americans toss their trash EVERYWHERE! They toss it into rivers, lakes, streams and along every road. They leave vehicles, trailers, couches and cans of oil by the hundreds of thousands if not millions EVERYWHERE in the woods, on abandoned lots and without rhyme or reason. They toss gallons of plastic containers of urine along the Interstate! They toss cans, plastic containers and bottles, and soiled baby diapers into the prettiest mountain streams and along hiking paths. Not just a little, but into the millions!
We Americans kill a vertebrate animal,
known as road-kill, every 11.1 seconds. Deer, fox, eagles, hawks, mice, road
runners, bear, elk, mountain lions, dogs, cats, song birds, geese and others
suffer abrupt deaths because of our roadway systems. That means we kill over 1.0 million daily
that equals 365 million North American animals suffer death annually just
trying to scamper across our highways to feed their young or live their
lives. On my way up one pass, one
beautiful bird sang to his lover until he flew low onto the highway and crashed
into a windshield. Tears streamed down my face from that awful sight.(Source: High Country News, http://www.hcn.org , "Roadkill in US" Feb 2005)
Plastic bags hang from bushes, trees and
fence posts! I am convinced that plastic
will prove the worst invention of humanity.
Why? Because we refuse to take responsibility for our own
littering! And, as you may have heard
about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (on Oprah)--3.0 million tons of floating
plastic containers in the Pacific Ocean 1,000 miles west of San Francisco,
larger than the state of Texas--kill millions of marine creatures annually.
Why? Because businessmen like Peter Coors of Coors beer spent millions to make sure that bottle/return laws like Michigan's never succeeded in Colorado or most states. Thus, Colorado and 43 other states do not enjoy 10 cent deposit/return laws. Pete Coors: a pretend environmentalist hiding behind a coat and tie! He's got plenty of others like him that remain responsible for all the container trash across our once-lovely landscape. Coors' legacy: every river I crossed during my ride, I saw plastic floating toward the ocean.
What happened to personal accountability? What about personal responsibility? How can millions of Americans trash this continent without any sense of honoring nature?
Why doesn't the U.S. Congress enact a simple .10 cent deposit/return law for the entire nation like Michigan's? Simple, effective, responsible! If someone tosses a container, an army of kids picks it up!
Answer to the first question: this country's leaders and citizens really don't care nor do they take any action to clean up after themselves. With another 100 million Americans expected within 25 years--we'll see more trash, litter, garbage, junked trailers and debris piling up across this once-beautiful continent. I hang my head in shame.
"Time means nothing now. It slips away as easily as grains of sand on a beach. But those grains only trade places. On my bike, I change the same way--new locations in the passage of time. The pedaling becomes incidental now--like breathing. No conscious effort--only flow. The hills and mountains come and go--my legs powering over them in a kind of winsome trance. Grappling with headwinds only brings determination, while riding a tail wind brings ecstasy. I transform into a state of bliss, much like a seagull gliding over the waves or floating on updrafts. I see them standing on the beaches or soaring over the surf. Just living. Just being. Me too!" Frosty Wooldridge, six continent long distance touring cyclist.